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ISSUE 117 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/30/2004

More information on campus ecology

By Melanie Meinzer
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 30, 2004

As the sun thaws out this formerly frozen campus, the Hill isnt the only place that is singing the song of spring. The natural lands that surround St. Olaf are also waking up after winter.

Just behind Skogland, wood ducks and geese sail over the big pond. Below, swimming muskrats peek above the shoreline. While turtles and snakes bask in the spring sun, western chorus frogs sing a concert every afternoon in one of the restored wetlands. Bluebirds, butterflies and dragonflies soar through the skies.

If you havent explored this wild, wonderful part of campus, now is a beautiful time to get out and see the lands that surround us.

In the past 15 years, the land around St. Olaf has been transformed from conventional farmland into an amazing natural lands project. It was started fifteen years ago by Professor Gene Bakko and others who were interested in environmental restoration.

Through two U.S. government programs, St. Olaf was able to establish and ensure the protection of the natural lands. Today St. Olaf has 700 acres of land dedicated to natural habitat and agriculture.

Wander the trails around campus and youll find acres of native prairie, a dozen restored wetlands, a bluebird trail of 60 nest boxes and beautiful native hardwood forests. Home to hundreds of plant and animal species, these lands are an important part of the worldwide effort to restore natural habitats.

Prairies, a big part of the project, are one of the most endangered and most diverse ecosystems in the world. They reduce global warming and produce topsoil faster than any other ecosystem. Every restoration effort helps, including the project right here at St. Olaf.

The school hopes to continue the natural lands project by converting the conventional farmland to sustainable agriculture, planting more prairies and continuing to restore the forests.

Many students at St. Olaf have participated in research, planting and learning in the natural lands. But you dont have to be a scientist to appreciate the natural lands. Part of the reason they are here is for us to enjoy them. As the natural lands sing their song of spring, listen to their melody that is rich with beauty, abundant life and gifts of creation.

 Katie Blair 07, Ihotu Ali 07 and Jenna Tulman 07

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